Cloud Atlas is an awesome symphony of high concept pulp and pop philosophy, woven together with plenty of passion and determination.
If that sounds like something I’ve already written, it’s because it is. Sometimes 140 characters is all you need to review a film, which is why I’m quite proud of the tweet I wrote along those lines immediately after seeing the film.
With its numerous narratives featuring actors in multiple roles, Cloud Atlas was always going to be an ambitious undertaking. But I’m pleased to say that, for me at least, it’s a pretty resounding success.
My main worry was the the stories would lack depth and emotional punch by being spread too thinly. And actually, taken individually they don’t amount to much. But because the narrative is thematically arranged the multiple tales bounce off one another in a superbly edited rhythm. There’s a flow to everything that actually works more like music than film, something which is underlined by the prominence of a piece of music written by Ben Wishaw’s character in the 1936 segment: ‘The Cloud Atlas Sextet’. In fact the score and editing are wonderful throughout, both characters in the film as much as the actors.
Cloud Atlas is an odd combination of pulp fiction, high concept blockbuster, and art film. Essentially it’s composed of relatively shallow pop philosophy, a la the Wachowski’s previous Matrix films, but the broad range and rhythmic editing push it almost into the realm of art film, albeit one with lots of CGI. I guess the closest comparison would be Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain, and I expect Aronofsky’s casting of Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz across three separate time periods influenced the casting here, where a small cast of actors pick up various characters across the ages.
And the casting in Cloud Atlas certainly is odd/bold (delete as applicable). Hugh Grant as a cannibal? Why not. Hugo Weaving in drag? It’s not like he hasn’t done it before. Halle Berry as a white woman and Jim Sturgess as a South Korean? Fuck racial boundaries. And then there’s Jim Broadbent, who seems to be in a different film entirely no matter what section he turns up in. At times it’s almost pantomime, yet I still found it endearing.
Ultimately I would be surprised if Cloud Atlas connects with a large audience just because it’s so unusual. And really fucking long. But for me it’s a rather enjoyable grand folly. Perhaps it will be remembered as a cult favourite in years to come. An elaborate, symphonic, melodrama of a cult favourite.
Viewed at: Cineworld Wood Green